Friday, June 15, 2007

Invisible Theatre to the power of 10

The Yes Men are up to their antics once again. This CBC story reports the latest (thanks, Matt). The Yes Men are merry pranksters who monkey-wrench corporate conference events by posing as official representatives of various corporate interests. This documentary chronicles some of their pranks. It's interesting to compare their work to invisible theatre, one of the methods of Theatre of the Oppressed developed by Augusto Boal (if you can read Portuguese check out Boal's organization in Rio: CTO-Rio and there's an english page here about international exchanges). Invisible Theatre is an interventionist form of theatre in which a group of actors stage and perform scenes that expose various forms of injustice. The goal is to provoke dialogue about oppression and, hopefully, contribute to resisting oppression if not promoting justice. The actors never reveal that it is theatre and so people who have witnessed/participated in the event would never know that they had been part of something that had been planned. The ethics of doing this are, to say the least, fuzzy - worth debating. Since first doing Theatre of the Oppressed in the mid 80s i have seen a consistently enthusiastic response on the part activists and educators that usually sounds like, "That's so cool. Let's DO IT!" This enthusiasm can eclipse the need for careful preparation including discussion of the why's and wherefore's of doing it. The Yes Men eventually expose what they have been doing so it's not exactly invisible theatre but it does share some elements in common up to the point they reveal themselves or get exposed. The curious thing is why people are suckered by them when they are presenting incredibly outlandish things as in one presentation where they advocate for slavery. But, having come across Confessions of an Economic Hit Man i can see that believing the Yes Men is actually not as hard as believeing the extent to which the forces of U.S. capitalist democracy are willing to go in manipulating other countries economies for the benefit of the U.S.

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